Unraveling the Eczema and the Gut-Skin Connection

A dermatologist wearing gloves examines the skin of a sick patient. Examination and diagnosis of skin diseases-allergies, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis.

Key Points

  • A growing body of research suggests a connection between gut health and eczema.

  • While this connection hasn't yet been definitively established, scientists continue pursuing this avenue of research, and it offers exciting possibilities for future eczema treatment.

  • This article considers the gut-skin axis and its potential role in eczema.

  • A number of probiotic and prebiotic supplements are also recommended to help establish and maintain a healthy gut flora, which contributes to improved systemic health.

  • Improved systemic health certainly has the potential to positively impact eczema management.

Although conventional eczema treatments have proven effective for millions of eczema sufferers across the world, a growing body of evidence suggests a deeper connection between gut health and eczema. This intriguing link, known as the gut-skin axis, consists of a complex interplay between the human gastrointestinal system and skin health. Researchers are hopeful that this connection may prove to be a future source of eczema treatments.

This article takes a deeper look into the gut-skin axis and its influence on eczema, including a consideration of some of the latest research and studies that suggest a connection between gut health and skin conditions. It also examines the potential roles of probiotics and prebiotics in eczema management and provides strategies for promoting a healthy gut to achieve better skin health.

Understanding the Gut-Skin Axis

The gut-skin axis is an emerging concept that underscores the intricate relationship between the human gastrointestinal system and skin health. This connection revolves around the idea that the state of our gut can significantly influence the development and severity of various skin conditions, including eczema.

Research has shown that individuals with eczema often have an altered gut microbiome, which refers to the diverse community of microorganisms living in our intestines. This imbalance, known as dysbiosis, can disrupt the delicate equilibrium of the gut and impact the immune system's function. Research suggests that these disruptions, in turn, may trigger or exacerbate skin conditions like eczema.

A Significant Contributor to Human Illness

According to Osmosis writer Nikol Armata, eczema isn't the only condition or disease believed to be affected, triggered, and/or caused by dysbiosis: "As a result [of dysbiosis], beneficial bacteria are usually minimized, whereas other bacteria that may be harmful increase in number. Dysbiosis is commonly linked to impaired gut barrier function and immune-mediated inflammation, which is a result of an excessive immune response. Therefore, there has been a potential association between intestinal dysbiosis and certain conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diabetes mellitus, and colorectal cancer."

Studies Establishing a Gut-Skin Connection

Recent studies have provided compelling evidence of the link between gut health and skin conditions like eczema. Research published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy found that infants with a disrupted gut microbiome were at a higher risk of developing eczema in their first year of life. This highlights the potential role of early gut health in the development of skin conditions.

Furthermore, individuals with eczema often exhibit intestinal barrier dysfunction, a phenomenon where the gut's protective lining becomes compromised. This allows harmful substances to leak into the bloodstream, potentially exacerbating skin inflammation and irritation.

This underscores the importance of maintaining a balanced gut microbiome and a healthy intestinal barrier to mitigate the risk and severity of eczema.

Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Eczema Management

Probiotics and prebiotics are key players in the quest for a healthier gut. A mounting number of studies suggests that these same probiotics and prebiotics may also have a significant role to play in improving skin health, particularly for eczema sufferers. These studies have opened up an exciting new field. Even dogs are excited about probiotics. Moose the Weimaraner decided to sneak a midnight snack of probiotics on September 14th, 2023.

Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that restore and maintain a balanced gut microbiome. They work by replenishing the gut with "good" bacteria, which, in sufficiently high concentrations, crowding out harmful microbes and promote a healthier digestive environment. Several studies have explored the use of probiotics in eczema management, with promising results. Probiotics may help modulate the immune system's response, reducing inflammation and potentially alleviating eczema symptoms.

For eczema sufferers considering probiotics, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains are commonly recommended. These strains have demonstrated the potential to improve skin health by promoting a harmonious gut environment.

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that serve as food for beneficial gut bacteria. They nourish the existing good bacteria in the gut, allowing them to thrive and maintain a balanced microbiome. In eczema management, prebiotics complement the effects of probiotics by creating an environment where these beneficial microbes can flourish.

A diet rich in prebiotic-rich foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, and asparagus feeds beneficial bacteria. And even without a gut-skin axis, the importance of a healthy microbiome to human health is well documented.

Strategies To Promote a Healthy Gut

To harness the power of the gut-skin axis for healthier skin and, potentially, more effective management of eczema, it's critical to adopt strategies that promote a healthy gut. Here are some practical aspects of good gut health to consider

  1. Dietary choices: Opt for a balanced diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi. These foods support a diverse gut microbiome.

  2. Hydration: Stay well-hydrated to maintain the mucosal lining of your gut, which acts as a barrier against harmful substances.

  3. Stress management: High stress levels can negatively impact not only your gut health but your systemic health as well. Practicing healthy stress reduction, then, contributes to better overall health. Techniques like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and journaling are great ways to alleviate stress.

  4. Limit antibiotic use: While antibiotics are life-saving, overuse isn't healthy and can potentially disrupt the gut microbiome. Use antibiotics only when necessary and under medical supervision.

  5. Regular exercise: Physical activity promotes gut motility and overall digestive health.

  6. Consultation professionals: If you suspect gut-related issues contribute to your eczema, consider consulting both a dermatologist and a gastroenterologist. Collaborative efforts between these specialists deliver a holistic approach to treatment.

When Doctors Collaborate on Care

As of 2023, no definitive test exists to confirm a direct connection between an individual's eczema and gut microbiome. However, a number of tests can assess the balance of microflora in the gut and the overall state of gut health. These include gut microbiome tests, intestinal permeability tests, and Calprotectin tests (which measure gut inflammation).

Some of these tests are available as at-home tests marketed by a handful of companies; however, the FDA does not endorse or approve such tests. As such, your best option is to consult a doctor about having one or more of these or other tests performed to gauge gut health. A medical professional analyzes and explains the results to you directly. If necessary, your doctor may even refer you to a gastroenterologist or other specialist.

If tests uncover any abnormalities in your gut microbiome, your medical professional will guide you on an appropriate course of treatments, supplements, and/or dietary and lifestyle changes to remedy the problem.

You should see a dermatologist, meanwhile, to focus on treating and managing your eczema. They may recommend topical treatments, lifestyle modifications, and skincare routines tailored to each patient's needs. Additionally, dermatologists can advise you on the use of probiotics and prebiotics as complementary therapies.

Follow up with your gut doctor (whether gastroenterologist or other healthcare professional) to make sure each doctor is aware of the other's course of treatment. This way, the two can work in concert to make sure their treatments are complementary, helping to sync the health of gut and skin as much as possible.

Such a collaborative approach ensures that eczema sufferers receive comprehensive care that addresses the root causes of their condition, leading to more effective and personalized treatment plans.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Research suggests that a balanced gut microbiome may help modulate the immune system and reduce systemic inflammation — including in the skin, thereby strengthing the skin's barrier function. While further studies need to confirm these findings, probiotics and prebiotics offer a promising avenue for eczema sufferers looking to address their condition holistically by potentially improving gut health. As with any health-related supplement, consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice before starting.

Recommended Probiotics

Remember that probiotics are live "friendly" bacteria that live synergistically in the human gut, creating better health and helping overpower harmful and less helpful bacteria species.

Digestive Daily Probiotic Capsules

by Culturelle

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Culturelle Digestive Daily Probiotic

Culturelle Digestive Daily Probiotic boasts a well-researched and clinically proven probiotic strain, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, known for its ability to promote digestive wellness. By replenishing the gut with this beneficial bacterium, Culturelle Digestive Daily Probiotic crowd out harmful microbes, bolstering the body's defense against digestive discomfort and irregularities. Its potency ensures a substantial colony of good bacteria, aiding in the breakdown of food, nutrient absorption, and the synthesis of essential vitamins.

Daily Probiotic Supplement

by Florastor

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Florastor Daily Probiotic

Florastor Daily Probiotic features the unique probiotic strain Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745, renowned for its resilience against environmental factors like antibiotics and its ability to promote digestive harmony. By introducing this robust probiotic into the gut, Florastor Daily Probiotic assists in restoring a balanced and diverse microbiome. It strengthens the intestinal barrier, ensuring better absorption of nutrients and enhancing the body's natural defense against digestive issues.

Extra Care Probiotic
$168.83 ($1.41 / Count)

by Renew Life

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12/04/2023 04:59 am GMT

Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotic

Renew Life Ultimate Flora Probiotic has a high-potency blend of beneficial probiotic strains, carefully selected to provide comprehensive support to the digestive system. With billions of live cultures per capsule, it replenishes and fortifies the gut with a diverse array of probiotics, effectively pushing out harmful microbes and promoting digestive well-being. Its unique delayed-release capsules ensure that the probiotics reach the intestines intact, where they can exert their full beneficial effects.

Recommended Prebiotics

Probiotics are the live organisms that inhabit the human gut, while prebiotics are the food and fuel these friendly bacteria need to thrive. Prebiotics themselves are in fiber-rich foods but are also available in supplement form. Because NOW makes some of the finest, most comprehensive prebiotic supplements available, all three recommendations come from this brand.

NutraFlora FOS Pure Powder
$13.24 ($3.31 / Ounce)

by NOW

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12/04/2023 04:59 am GMT

NOW NutraFlora FOS Pure Powder

NOW NutraFlora FOS Pure Powder is an excellent choice for those seeking to create and maintain a healthy gut through prebiotic support. This pure fructooligosaccharides (FOS) powder comes from chicory root, a rich source of prebiotic fiber. It stands out for its ability to nourish beneficial gut bacteria, particularly Bifidobacteria, which play a vital role in gut health. By providing a soluble and easy-to-digest source of prebiotics, this supplement promotes the growth and activity of these friendly microbes in the gastrointestinal tract.

Prebiotic Bifido Boost
$12.16 ($0.25 / Count)

by NOW

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12/04/2023 05:19 am GMT

NOW Prebiotic Bifido Boost

NOW Prebiotic Bifido Boost is an exceptional choice for those aiming to foster and sustain a healthy gut environment through prebiotic support. This supplement uses PreticX™ XOS, a clinically researched prebiotic fiber known for its selective nourishment of Bifidobacteria, which are vital for gut health. By providing this targeted and effective source of prebiotics, NOW promotes the growth and activity of these beneficial bacteria, enhancing gut flora balance and overall digestive wellness. The inclusion of PreticX™ XOS, backed by scientific studies, underscores the quality and efficacy of this supplement.

Inulin Prebiotic Pure Powder
$8.79 ($1.10 / Ounce)

by NOW 

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12/04/2023 05:30 am GMT

NOW Inulin Prebiotic Pure Powder

NOW Inulin Prebiotic Pure Powder is an excellent choice for anyone seeking to adhere to a non-GMO, organic diet. Derived from organic agave plants, this pure inulin powder is a versatile and highly soluble source of prebiotic fiber. It serves as a nourishing substrate for beneficial gut bacteria, stimulating their growth and activity. By choosing a certified organic product, you are confident in its purity and quality. NOW Inulin Prebiotic Pure Powder offers a convenient and adaptable way to support gut health, promoting the flourishing of a diverse and balanced microbiome and ultimately contributing to overall digestive well-being.

In the Fight Against Eczema, Hope Abounds

Keep in mind that although research suggests a link between a healthy microbiome and eczema, there are no conclusive, direct links. Additionally, no testing yet exists to definitively confirm a direct connection between an individual's eczema and gut microbiome. As such, although maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is a powerful step toward improving one's overall health, there are no definite conclusions regarding gut flora and eczema.

That said, the gut-skin axis is still an exciting frontier of eczema research, offering new hope for effective treatment and relief. Even without research-established connections between gut health and skin health, eczema sufferers can still greatly improve their overall system health by taking proactive steps to maintain a healthy gut. This alone is extremely helpful in the battle against eczema. Meanwhile, as science continues unraveling the mysteries of the gut-skin axis, the future looks more promising than ever for eczema treatment and management.

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